The news from Pakistan’a Gilgit-Balistan province is grim:
- 30% of normal snowfall
- November to March snow was observed before 1994
- Snows came only January & February 2014
- March melt is four to six weeks early
- Water is already gone by May planting time
This province is in the far north of Pakistan, part of the small area that gets snow.
The country is subject to monsoon rains between June and September, but centered on six weeks in July and August. The cooler, higher altitude areas get the bulk of the precipitation.
But on just one night in 2010 this happened, leaving 20% of Pakistan under water.
Various stories can be found indicating the per capita water availability in Pakistan is 20% of what it was when they achieved independence in 1947. These stories neglect to mention population – which has more than quintupled in that time.
Pakistan’s elected government has been taken over by the army three times starting in 1958 and these takeovers last an average of eleven years. The recent assassination of Hamid Mir, a GeoTV journalist, and the TV network’s immediate blaming of Inter-Services Intelligence are seen as signs that 2014 may see another coup.
A military government can quash dissent and push through unpopular but necessary adaptive infrastructure, like a dam that will flood part of one valley for the sake of stabilizing a region. The problem is that Pakistan already has a couple of domestic insurgencies and countering violence today will take precedence over civil engineering projects that will not contribute immediately to stability.
Pakistan, Afghanistan, and couple of the former Soviet stans, along with Iran itself are part of a geographic region the Persian empire called Parthia, but which we now call Greater Iran. Click through that link and you’ll find a similar story about Iran, which stands to have 45 million of their population of 75 million become climate refugees(!)
The Soviet Union blundered into a war of attrition with Afghan tribes in 1979 and this was a big factor in their collapse in 1991. Just eleven years after Afghanistan’s most recent imperial kill, the United States, as sure of democracy as the Russians were of communism, marched right into the same trap. The United States has not collapsed outright just yet, but the economic malaise at home and our shaky grasp on foreign affairs are clear signs of what is to come.
This entire region is over carrying capacity. This should be both the first and last thought when considering any long term plans. India, Russia, and Turkey will bear the brunt of this and they are the ones who are in a position to do something. The days of unilateral U.S. action are over. If you want to make predictions for the region look at precipitation and the price of staple foods such as wheat, because they matter in ways that ideology and rhetoric can never match.